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Nuclear button always on his table, US must realise this; dares Kim

Monitor News Bureau

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Seoul:Kim Jong-Un urged North Korea to mass-produce nuclear warheads and missiles in a defiant New Year message on Monday suggesting that he would continue to accelerate a rogue weapons programme that has stoked international tensions.

Pyongyang dramatically ramped up its efforts to become a nuclear power in 2017, despite a raft of international sanctions and increasingly bellicose rhetoric from the United States.

Kim, who said on Monday that he always had a nuclear launch button on his desk, had presided over multiple missile tests in recent months and the North’s sixth and most powerful nuclear test–which it said was a hydrogen bomb–in September.

 

“We must mass-produce nuclear warheads and ballistic missiles and speed up their deployment,” said Kim in his annual address to the nation, reiterating his claims that North Korea had achieved its goal of becoming a nuclear state.

The North says its weapons programme is designed to be able to target the US mainland and tested increasingly longer-range intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBMs) throughout 2017.

US President Donald Trump has responded to each test with his own amplified declarations, threatening to “totally destroy” Pyongyang and taunting Kim, saying the North Korean leader was on “a suicide mission”.

But far from persuading Kim to give up his nuclear drive, analysts say Trump’s tough talk may have prompted the North Korean leader to drive through with his dangerous quest.

“(The North) can cope with any kind of nuclear threats from the US and has a strong nuclear deterrence that is able to prevent the US from playing with fire,” Kim said.

“The nuclear button is always on my table. The US must realise this is not blackmail but reality.”

His comments come after a former top US military officer warned that the United States is now closer than it had ever been to a nuclear war with the North, with little hope of a diplomatic solution to the crisis.

Mike Mullen, a former chairman of the US joint chiefs of staff, said the Trump presidency had helped create “an incredibly dangerous climate”, in an interview on ABC’s ‘This Week’.

“We’re actually closer, in my view, to a nuclear war with North Korea and in that region than we have ever been,” he said.

Pyongyang claims it needs nuclear weapons to protect itself from a hostile US and sees American military activities in the region–such as the joint drills it takes part in with the South–as a precursor to invasion.

As tensions spiked in the region in recent months, the international community has slapped a range of sanctions on the North aimed at curbing its weapons programme and squeezing the country’s leadership.


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International

Secret locations of US nuclear weapons in Europe accidentally leaked

Agencies

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Washington: The secret locations of US nuclear weapons stored in Europe have been accidentally revealed in a report published by a Nato committee.

The document referred to the sites of roughly 150 American nuclear weapons.

“These bombs are stored at six US and European bases — Kleine Brogel in Belgium, Büchel in Germany, Aviano and Ghedi-Torre in Italy, Volkel in The Netherlands, and Incirlik in Turkey,” a section of the report seen by Belgian newspaper De Morgen said.

 

The information was included in an early version of the report published in April by the Defence and Security Committee of the Nato Parliamentary Assembly, titled A New Era for Nuclear Deterrence? Modernisation, Arms Control and Allied Nuclear Forces.

However, the reference has since been removed from the final version released last week.

The latest version of the report instead makes reference to aircraft capable of carrying nuclear weapons, adding: “The European Allies often cited as operating such aircraft are Belgium, Germany, Italy, The Netherlands, and Turkey.”

A Nato official told The Washington Post the report was “not an official Nato document” and pointed out that it was written by the alliance’s parliamentary assembly.

“We do not comment on the details of Nato’s nuclear posture,” they added.

While the storing of American nuclear weapons in Europe has long been regarded as an open secret, media organisations on the continent viewed the document as confirmation.

“Finally in black and white: There are American nuclear weapons in Belgian,” the De Morgen report was headlined.

“Nato reveals the Netherlands’ worst-kept secret,” Dutch broadcaster RTL News said.

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‘They gave you Nobel for what?’ Trump asks Yazidi activist Nadia Murad

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Washington: US President Donald Trump appeared unfamiliar with the work and cause of Nobel laureate Nadia Murad as she pleaded with him to help the Yazidis of Iraq.

Murad, one of thousands of women and girls from the ancient faith abducted by ISIS as they overran swathes of Iraq in 2014, joined a group of survivors of religious persecution who met Trump in the Oval Office on the sidelines of a major meeting at the State Department.

After Murad explained how her mother and six brothers were killed and that 3,000 Yazidis remained missing, Trump said, “And you had the Nobel Prize? That’s incredible. They gave it to you for what reason?”

 

With little pause, Murad, who was jointly awarded the Nobel Peace Prize last year, repeated her story.

“After all this happened to me, I didn’t give up. I make it clear to everyone that ISIS raped thousands of Yazidi women,” she said.

“Please do something. It’s not about one family,” she said.

Trump, who has boasted of crushing the self-styled caliphate of ISIS that once stretched across Iraq and Syria, also appeared at a loss when Murad asked him to press the Iraqi and Kurdish governments to create safe conditions for the Yazidis to return.

“But ISIS is gone and now it’s Kurdish and who?” Trump asked, before later telling her, “I know the area very well.”

Murad also explained how Yazidis took dangerous routes to find safety in Germany, whose welcome to refugees has been vocally criticized by Trump.

The US leader also appeared unfamiliar when he met a representative from the Rohingya, a Muslim minority targeted in a brutal campaign two years ago in Myanmar.

One day earlier, his administration banned travel to the United States by Myanmar’s army chief and three other senior officers, calling the violence “ethnic cleansing.”


The Trump administration frequently speaks of promoting religious freedom, a key issue for much of his evangelical Christian base.

Government ministers and representatives of persecuted groups are spending three days at the State Department for a meeting on religious freedom, which Vice President Mike Pence will address on Thursday.

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International

Iran FM at UN accuses US of ‘economic terrorism’

Agencies

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Tehran: Iran’s foreign minister has renewed accusations that the United States was waging “economic terrorism,” on a visit to the United Nations during which Washington has sharply curtailed his movements.

After months of soaring tensions, Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif came to New York for a UN session on sustainable development, where he denounced unilateral sanctions imposed by President Donald Trump.

Iranians are “subjected to the most brutal form of ‘economic terrorism’ — deliberately targeting innocent civilians to achieve illegitimate political objectives,” Zarif said from the rostrum on Wednesday.

 

The “unlawful, extraterritorial” sanctions “represent the greatest threat to the achievement of sustainable development goals of Iran and many of our neighbours,” he said.

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